When purchasing a laptop, there’s a strong chance that you’ll come across the term iGPU when digging into the spec sheet.
But what exactly is an iGPU, and how does it differ from a discrete GPU? We’ve created this guide to answer those very questions, so keep reading on for a full breakdown.
What is an iGPU?
iGPU stands for integrated GPU, referring to a graphics chip that is built within a processor (along with a CPU) rather than being an independent component.
The vast majority of processors, from the likes of AMD and Intel, will have an iGPU, as it is required for your PC to be able to display any kind of image (even your Windows home screen) in the case your system does not have a discrete GPU.
But what exactly is a discrete GPU? Unlike an iGPU, this is a dedicated graphics chip that can be found inside powerful laptops (such as gaming laptops) and graphics cards. A discrete GPU is generally significantly more powerful than an iGPU, because there’s more space for additional cores and transistors to enhance the frequency, while also drawing more power.
For example, an RTX 4060 graphics chip for a laptop has a TGP (Total Graphics Power) of between 35 and 115 watts, depending on the chosen configuration of the laptop manufacturer, and a 2.37GHz boosted graphics frequency. The high-end Intel Core i9-13980HX laptop processor has an iGPU with a max graphics frequency of 1.65Ghz – and while it consumes more power with a maximum turbo power of 157W, this is shared between both the CPU and GPU built within the chip.
With a discrete GPU typically offering far more graphics power than an iGPU, the former should be one of the key considerations when looking to buy a laptop for gaming or content creation. An iGPU is the better option for those who want a lightweight laptop that prioritises portability over graphics performance – and since discrete GPUs require dedicated cooling solutions, their addition can increase the weight of a laptop considerably.
There are exceptions to this rule, however. Apple has made remarkable progress with its M1 and M2 chips for modern Macs in recent years. These processors offer remarkably powerful iGPU solutions, particularly the M2 Ultra which is competitive with high-end discrete GPUs. As a result, it’s important to note that a discrete GPU isn’t guaranteed to be more powerful than an iGPU, even if that’s typically the case.